Imperialist domination and the effect of domination on the classes.
The anti-national nature of the Haitian dominant classes, and the state apparatus as their political organization, enable and determine the imperialist domination of Haiti. It is important that we also look at the flip side of the coin: the pertinent effect of domination on the classes in Haiti.
Since 1979, modifications were underway in the alliance between the Haitian dominant classes. The bureaucratic bourgeoisie leaned on the feudal landlords to achieve consolidation and affirmation. By 1980, this bureaucratic bourgeoisie was leaning more and more on other fractions of the bourgeoisie, particularly on the comprador bourgeoisie.
The political practices of imperialism played a role (a secondary one), in facilitating these new relations among the dominant classes. US imperialism initiated aid, began to coordinate its practices in Haiti, and started reinforcing the state in the interests of the power bloc Imperialism renewed its support of the Duvalier regime in 1968, objectively consolidating the Duvalier government in its own interest. Meanwhile there were struggles amongst the Haitian dominant classes around impeding bourgeois democracy and the implementation of bourgeois democratic rights, both affected by the weakness of the bourgeois democratic structure at the time, plus the fact that feudalism is not really too fond of bourgeois democracy. This objective reality put Haiti in a constant state of crisis.
The massive aid, in the midst of constant crisis, in fact only served to sustain the dictatorship of the dominant classes over the popular masses, particularly the fundamental masses. Imperialism is obligated to give this support to the Haitian dominant classes and the state apparatus, because without it, the Haitian dominant classes cannot sustain their rule. It has been clear since that time, that the country was facing an occupation. As the recipients of all that aid, the Haitian dominant classes were clearly showing that they have mastered the concept of failure. They have adapted to the notion that capital accumulation is possible through crisis management.
Imperialism consolidated its relationship with the bureaucratic bourgeoisie, and with other fractions of the bourgeoisie. Of course, with some minimal nuance, with the bureaucratic bourgeoisie, the consolidation was mainly political, achieved through direct political relations between Haiti and imperialist countries. The bureaucratic bourgeoisie controlled the principal institution of the state apparatus: the government. They played a fundamental role in selling the country wholesale and piecemeal. All the multilateral and bilateral agreements came through this fraction. All this consolidated the relation of imperialism with the bureaucratic bourgeoisie. On top of that, all aid was channeled through the bureaucratic bourgeoisie, facilitating their enrichment. Since that time, it has became of utmost importance to not only fight corruption, but also to point out that the aid has also been a means of capital accumulation, principally by that fraction.
With the comprador bourgeoisie, imperialism consolidated its relation through import-export trade. The comprador bourgeoisie is the local affiliate of imperialism in the assembly industry, as managers, sub-contractors, and as partners. The comprador bourgeoisie acts as brokers for imperialism.
So, the ties of imperialism with both these fractions of the bourgeoisie solidified during the 1980s to 1986, and up to the second occupation. These two sectors of the bourgeoisie unified in the mist of struggle during that period, which allowed imperialism to easily dominate Haiti. Imperialism is a crutch for the dominant classes. They modernized the repressive apparatus system of the state—the army and spy networks—and trained the military in torture tactics. All this was to render the dominant classes and the state apparatus more effective in exercising repression and keeping the masses disorganized, in order to maintain their dictatorship over the popular masses.
Parallel to that, not in contradiction to but in accordance with their overall objectives, imperialism built other forms to dominate the masses through a more passive form of control. They participated in the establishment of “communal council/cooperatives” (now called NGOs), sometimes under religious cover, to control and expand their reach into the popular masses. All these political practices were aimed at consolidating the political power of the dominant classes and imperialism.
Imperialism played a role in setting up bourgeois democracy in favor of the dominant classes. Because of the way bourgeois democratic practices are applied, Duvalier as “president for life” became a hindrance. A bourgeois democratic structure needed to be implemented in the midst of struggle and contradictions within the dominant classes. In addressing these contradictions, the dominant classes, imperialism and the state apparatus needed to defuse the revolutionary potential of the masses, preventing any uncontrollable overflow of struggle by the masses. Just before 1986, a bourgeois representative, Jean Dominique, proposed a type of bourgeois democracy similar to that in Spain: to make Jean Claude Duvalier a king, and create a parliament which would serve to resolve differences among the dominant classes. He argued that if the dominant classes failed to do that, they would all lose as a bloc.
The comprador bourgeoisie was leaning heavily on petit bourgeois intellectuals to wage political struggle against the bureaucratic bourgeoisie. The objective of the comprador bourgeoisie was to become the principal hegemonic force in the alliance of the dominant classes.
This struggle among the dominant classes enhanced the capacity of imperialism to maneuver. They used the struggles waged by the petit bourgeois representatives of the comprador bourgeoisie to put more pressure on the government. They also organized a total of 12 pre-failed CIA-led invasions, to put pressure on the Duvalier regime. Shortly after the last invasion, Marc Bazin (one of the Chicago Boys, nicknamed Mr. Clean) was appointed as Minister of the Economy, with the task of limiting or ending corruption.
The bureaucratic bourgeoisie organized repression mainly on the popular masses, while at the same time (secondarily and selectively) repressed the bourgeois opposition. Imperialism and the dominant classes counted on them to do this, but at the same time they were having problems—very deep problems—with the way the bureaucratic bourgeoisie (BB) accumulated capital. The state, and state-owned enterprises, had become their ATM machines. The comprador bourgeoisie (CB) resisted the trickle-down capital that was going to their coffers. Imperialism openly supported the CB while playing one side against the other.
The hegemony of the BB was very effective in waging the anti popular repression, but at the same time their administration was very inadequate. They didn’t seem too keen on reforming their administration, which would have meant class suicide. The way the administration functioned was quite suited for thievery. Corruption was institutionalized.
Since the mid-1980s, imperialism feverishly applied a political line to make the CB more effective, and to eventually become the hegemonic force. Imperialism supported the struggle of the CB representatives for political pluralism, a form of structure whereby many bourgeois sectors could debate.
The country was in a constant state of crisis, and imperialism found itself stuck between a rock and hard place. The revolutionary potential of the masses needed to be constantly defused. The BB was very effective at that; but at the same time, for their plan to fully function, they needed their type of window-dressing democracy.
The bureaucratic bourgeoisie, because of its mode of capital accumulation, maintained some level of relative autonomy from imperialism. This was demonstrated by their resistance to fully comply with structural adjustment programs, especially at the level of privatization. Under Aristide, in his attempt to reconstitute the BB, he showed the same resistance (though in another historical conjectural context of the Haitian social formation). Either way, their resistance should not at all be considered a manifestation of a progressive type of nationalism worthy of progressive and revolutionary support. (Such positions were taken by many opportunist trends supporting Aristide).
This nationalism of the BB under Duvalier, and then under Aristide (while attempting to rebuild the BB), is a reactionary nationalism only serving the narrow interests of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie. But from the interest of the masses, especially the fundamental popular masses, this form of nationalism is actually anti-national and anti-popular.
The struggle against privatization, and against structural adjustment in general, is a popular democratic struggle that must led by the autonomous masses under the leadership of working class, if it is not to be reduced to being a reformist struggle benefiting a fraction of the dominant classes.
Soon after the departure of Jean Claude Duvalier in 1986, a new set of crises arose and imperialism played a role, through various embassies, in attempts to stabilize the situation. Several elements should be pointed out:
Jean Claude’s departure was a very big blow for the bureaucratic bourgeoisie. That fraction of the bourgeois class lost its autocratic figure capable of cementing its unity and its ability to maintain its hegemonic role at the head of all the ruling classes. In 1988, another blow was dealt to this fraction: the constitution barred them from political participation for ten years. Their internal struggle for a new autocratic figure (with many potential godfathers for this small market) became an open struggle, and severely hindered its capacity to maintain hegemony. The bureaucratic bourgeoisie dominated all the junta. The Haitian army functioned as their political party until the second occupation, which was another non-lethal blow to this fraction (contrary to the myth of Lavalas supporters and Aristide fanatics who give Aristide credit for disbanding the army).
The social structure producing the bureaucratic bourgeoisie still exists in Haiti. They are the product of that atrophied and deformed capitalism. The flow of aid is their breeding ground.
A factor in Aristide’s demise was actually his attempt to reconstitute that fraction under his autocratic rule. The Gran Manjè (Big Eaters) became the new potential bourgeois bureaucrats. He tried to take control of the national police by recruiting gangs and “chimè” (the Lavalas version of Tonton Makouts) to the force. The comprador bourgeoisie and its representatives vehemently protested. One of the outspoken representatives of the comprador bourgeoisie, Jean Dominique (a pro-Lavalas but turned anti-Aristide and close to Préval), was assassinated. Although institutions were created to stop corruption and capital accumulation by the Préval administration, the potential for the reconstitution of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie is still great, an ever-constant element in the ongoing crisis in Haiti.
The BB temporarily lost its hegemonic control of the state apparatus, but the potential is ever present and strong for this fraction to regain control. An ongoing struggle is constantly brewing among the dominant classes. Their incapacity to resolve their internal contradictions (and their overall incapacity to function as administrators of society) resulted in all the occupations Haiti has gone through so far, which have served their interest to safeguard their domination over the popular masses. The 2010 earthquake also revealed their incapacity, but most importantly proved their anti-national and anti-popular nature. Since the 1970s, Haitian proletarian revolutionaries have insisted on recognizing the incapacity of the ruling classes and have been warning, from the proletarian problematic, of a possible occupation and an eventual protectorate.
Today we are still facing two possibilities, one in the interest of the dominant classes, and the other in the interest of the popular masses guided by the working class. The working class and the rest of the popular masses need to defeat imperialism and the Haitian dominant classes. The working class needs to build autonomous organizations at all levels, unify the people’s camp under its leadership, to defeat the dominant classes and imperialism: OUR ONLY WAY OUT OF THIS MESS THEY HAVE PUT US IN.
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In consolidating the Haitian dominant classes and their state apparatus, imperialism plays both a direct and an indirect role in maintaining the dictatorship of these dominant classes over the masses. Imperialism intervenes directly in class struggles inside the Haitian social formation. Its principal form of intervention is the consolidation of repression and oppression over the popular masses.
Imperialists directly employ many structural apparatuses to divide and control the popular masses. For example, they use religious apparatuses which are mainly under the control of the US embassy. In popular zones, they use all kinds of NGOs, political gangs, drug gangs, smuggling gangs and paramilitary forces to control the popular masses. The leaders of FRAHP were on the CIA payroll, and Aristide appointed one of these leaders as Mayor of Cité Soleil, a major slum in Port-au-Prince. Under Duvalier, the leaders of the second Haitian Communist Party (PCH), were CIA agents or in contact with the CIA. The PCH called for the unity of the “middle class” with the Duvalier regime against the comprador bourgeoisie, and any members who disavowed that line were either assassinated or exiled.
French and US imperialists have tried to control the popular masses politically and ideologically. During the mid-1960s, in particular in 1965 during the general strike by university students (coinciding with heightened anti-communist repression), Francois Duvalier dropped all nationalist pretensions by promoting rock-and-roll in opposition to cultural alternatives that were being offered by communists and progressives at the time. Radio stations such as Radio Haiti and Radio Metropole introduced and pushed imperialist culture and cultural agents such as Elvis Presley of the US and Johnny Holliday of France, while simultaneously ignoring the repression and silencing the alternatives offered by the popular movements.
Imperialists also worked ardently in the countryside to control the masses. Catholic and Protestant churches were (and still are) popping up like wild mushrooms, introducing a brutal form of capitalist penetration through so-called non-profit ventures. These cooperatives, now called NGOs, transform the peasants into workers by using use the land of the peasant as part of a totally deformed capitalist productive force. They introduce a capitalist mode of production in parallel to the existing feudal mode of production, into the same process and the same units of production.
The peasants, under the camouflage of cooperatives, are led to donate part of their land to build roads and schools—bypassing the state apparatus, which masks the failure of the state to fulfill these functions. The peasants become workers producing honey, arts and crafts, and peanut butter, but they have only minimal control (or none) over the distribution of these goods.
The director of the NGO gets the initial capital investment through grants, and continues to receive grants while controlling the process of distribution. As a result of that arrangement, a new, very parasitic, dependent and totally domesticated breed of capitalist—a new type of comprador bourgeoisie— emerges and expands. Although there are hints of industrial production, the result is tantamount to producing a fully domesticated breed of capitalism and dependent form of capital accumulation directly connected to grants outside the state apparatus (but not in the same form and manner as the bureaucratic bourgeoisie). A study of that new breed of capitalism, which is arising due to imperialist domination, is still at a level of empirical analysis; more study is needed to achieve a better rational understanding of it. Still, it’s important to mention these observations at this moment, even if we are not yet able to draw many conclusions.
It is essential to note that since 1990, with the ascension of Aristide as head of state, it is this breed of capitalism that has dominated the political scene. With some minor exceptions, they headed most of the governments. They are very present in various state institutions such as in the Parliament and in cabinet offices.
This breed of capitalism propagated by NGOs is also present, in its own format and type, in the non-productive sector. There it is also utterly dependent on foreign donations. Partners in Health, once directed by Paul Farmer (who is now UN special envoy), has 4,000 employees. These institutions are among the largest private employers in Haiti.
Again it must be said: even though they provide employment, even if they pay a decent wage, and even if they do provide much needed help, the presence of this type of institution is totally detrimental to the Haitian economy. Through it, the country’s dependency is reproduced and reinforced every day. The drugs are not being produced in Haiti. Materials for basic healthcare, such as cotton swabs and alcohol, are not being produced in Haiti. Not only is the dependency reinforced every day, this type of institution also offsets the responsibilities of the state apparatus and the dominant classes.
In addition, it consolidates the policies of structural adjustment, mainly privatization. Healthcare is being objectively privatized. State responsibilities are constantly and increasingly being alleviated, and this facilitates privatization. In fact, the less that the state takes responsibility for the needs of the population, the more the conditions are created for NGOs to pursue this objective of serving as crutches for the state apparatus. Ironically, the capital for these endeavors comes not only from public funding, but also (and sometimes principally), from private funding by people with good intentions wanting to show solidarity with the popular masses. Thus imperialism takes on a humanitarian cover with other people’s money to mask its policies of destruction.
In general, churches are mostly American Protestant sects that receive help from American imperialism, and that are politically and ideologically surrounding the masses. They are spreading the belief that communism is the devil. Andrew Young, during his visit to Haiti while in the Carter administration, noted the important role of these churches in popular neighborhoods.
Imperialist practices have had other negative effects on the masses. Many people (even among the masses) are saying that imperialism is bringing jobs, that it is helping poor people. Even so-called progressives, in their defense of the Lavalas regime, are repeating like parrots that imperialism is creating jobs. The same ideas are being circulated among the ultra-reactionary pro-imperialist opposition. They are the opposition simply because they are the ones domestically serving imperialism.
It is an objective fact that more factories, in some cases, are opening their doors. We have already argued that these factories have nothing to do with Haiti’s real development. Even a blind person would be able to see that.
Now we need to examine their effect on the masses.
This new employment is enlarging the working class. This enlargement should not be overestimated (or underestimated). Though positive, this is a very limited enlargement. The new added labor force is very unstable. In many cases, the span of employment is very short. This type of unstable enrollment is allowing imperialism to super-exploit workers. Most of these factories are run as sweatshops. It’s a quick way to make a buck, since the state apparatus (through high-interest loans or aid) provides most of the initial investment. This results in maintaining a high level of unemployment.
The Haitian working class is super-exploited. Workers sell their labor power far below the cost required to reproduce it, as many studies have shown. Based on many studies by state agencies, in 2010, Haitian workers required about $20 a day to provide for a family of four. Yet they currently receive a mere $3 a day for working in the assembly sector. In spite of the assertions of our peddlers of false hope, imperialism does not bring work. It brings exploitation and misery.
In many cases, finding work doesn’t translate to any money in one’s pocket whatsoever. One of the super-exploitative practices of imperialism is to demand a period of unpaid training. This period can last up to 6 months, and after these 6 months these workers can be quickly let go to be replaced by another crew of free labor. In addition, for this free labor to get to work, they have to spend money, and often fall into debt. In these repetitive instances, again, imperialism does not bring work. All it brings is misery.
Imperialism also spreads techniques of high intensity exploitation, called quotas and modules. Quotas are established for workers to produce a certain amount of goods in exchange for their salary. These quotas are inhumane, and usually impossible to meet during an 8-hour shift. Even after a decree was passed by the Aristide government guaranteeing the daily minimum wage, the bourgeoisie and imperialism openly violated it by posting signs at their factory entrances declaring, “WHAT YOU DO IS WHAT YOU GET.“ No bourgeois elements have ever been penalized for violating this law, even after many written complaints by combative worker organizations to the Haitian labor institutions (which remained unanswered), denouncing this practice as well as their refusal to pay new adjustments to the minimum wage.
Many potential workers—dispossessed peasants, poor peasants, agricultural workers leave the countryside to find jobs in the new factories in Port-au-Prince—are left with their arms hanging. They will enlarge either the ranks of potential workers, the permanently unemployed, or the most disfavored sector of the petit bourgeoisie.
Again, when a peasant in the countryside is being expropriated, it is usually in favor of imperialist multi-nationals. The two factors of pauperization and displacement have affected mostly the poor peasant fraction of the peasantry. Many poor peasants transfer to the sub-proletariat (permanently unemployed, poor street peddlers and day laborers), and are forced to endure a sub-human lifestyle in the slums of Port-au-Prince, Cap Haïtien, and Les Cayes.
Imperialist domination has played a big role in the migration of sectors of the popular masses out of the country. This migration is contributing to the degradation of the masses’ living standard, but it is coupled with imperialist propaganda that their own social formation is paradise, that in the imperialist centers money grows on trees. The content of imperialist propaganda corresponds to the historically determined contradictions they face at various conjunctures. For example, during the US war against Vietnam, the US border was open for young Haitian men, who were seen as potential recruits for the US anti-national anti-popular imperialist army, and for Haitian women as potential recruits as workers for their garment industry.
External migration has played another role benefiting imperialism and the dominant classes: it has appeased the antagonistic social and class contradictions inside the Haitian social formation by making them less acute. The explosive social contradictions became less intense while at the same time emigration served as a totally mythical alternative for the masses, enticing them with the possibility of a better life in another social formation. The migration process—whether by boat, or as tourists with the intent to stay, or applying for “legal” documentation—is not in the interest of the masses even if it temporally ameliorates the conditions of a few.
In the final analysis, it is in the interests of the dominant classes and imperialism because it creates a false sentiment of escapism, a fictitious hope for a better life without having to transform society. It leads to the question: why struggle? Why resist? Additionally, it releases tensions from the powder keg of class conflicts. The migration process also functions in a contradictory reality, creating explosive contradictions in the receiving imperialist countries—especially during the period of crises that the imperialist system is currently undergoing.
Immigrants, in their vast majority, mostly face exploitation and humiliation in the new social formation. It is the responsibility of the proletarian revolutionary movement inside the imperialist centers to organize immigrants who are integrating into the masses, so that these immigrants can become integral participants of the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggles inside their new social formation.
In fact, whether in Haiti or in the new social formation, it is the same international bourgeoisie, in unison with the Haitian dominant classes, that is exploiting the masses. The proletarian revolutionary movement needs to develop a political line that encompasses these two aspects—struggles in both the dominated and in the imperialist countries—in order to coordinate and plan our common struggle against the dominant classes and imperialism on a global scale.